EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Inclusive labour markets

An inclusive labour market is defined in the cross-sector EU-level social partners’ autonomous framework agreement of 25 March 2010 on inclusive labour markets (EU1005011I) as a labour market that allows and encourages all people of working age to participate in paid work and provides a framework for their development. Achieving this type of labour market can be difficult, and requires action on the part of workers, employer and their representatives and other stakeholders, including public authorities, at all levels, to ensure that obstacles can be identified and overcome. Relevant areas include issues such as access to labour markets, return to labour markets after time out, typically to care for children or other family members, retention and full integration in the labour market.

Making labour markets more inclusive is one of the objectives of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU): Article 166(2) TFEU states that an aim of the Union is to improve initial and continuing vocational training in order to facilitate vocational integration and reintegration into the labour market.

Building a more inclusive labour market is also a policy objective of the European Commission: the Europe 2020 Strategy contains the following targets, aimed at making the labour market more inclusive:

  • 75% employment rate for women and men aged 20-64 by 2020, to be achieved by encouraging more people into work, especially women, the young, older and low-skilled people and legal migrants
  • better educational attainment, in particular:
  • reducing school drop-out rates below 10%
  • at least 40% of 30-34–year-olds completing third level education (or equivalent)
  • at least 20 million fewer people in or at risk of poverty and social exclusion

Linked to the European 2020 Strategy, the European Employment Strategy focuses on achieving more and better jobs throughout the EU, specifically through targeted actions such as its Agenda for new skills and jobs.

The potential barriers to achieving an inclusive labour market are set out in the social partners’ 2010 agreement, including: the availability of information about jobseekers and about the jobs that are available; recruitment methods that do not attract a wide diversity of applicants; training-related obstacles, such as a mismatch between the offer of training and the needs of the labour market; the responsibilities and attitudes of employers, workers, their representatives and jobseekers; and working life issues such as working conditions and work organisation, work-life balance policies and career development prospects.

In their agreement, the EU-level cross-sector social partners make a commitment to undertaking a range of actions in order to encourage the development of inclusive labour markets, including awareness raising and communication and dissemination activities, as well as joint actions with relevant stakeholders. They also urge public authorities and other stakeholders to design and implement comprehensive policies to promote inclusive labour markets, in areas such as: specific transitional measures for people who encounter difficulties in the labour market; the effectiveness of employment and career advice services; education and training; investment in territorial development; access to transport, care, housing and education; starting, sustaining and expanding businesses; and the tax and benefit systems.

See also: Access to employment; lifelong learning.


Please note: the European industrial relations dictionary is updated annually. If errors are brought to our attention, we will try to correct them.
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